This season the Texans were expecting to get something out of Kevin Johnson. He played the second cornerback spot during the preseason, suffering a memorable yet horrific tumble against the San Francisco 49ers. He was ready to start the season, but only played 65 snaps before suffering another concussion.
Johnson was placed on Injured Reserve after Week One’s loss to the Patriots; all Bill O’Brien had to say was that the corner would miss a lot of time. The injury led to a lot of rejiggering in the secondary. Shareece Wright, Mike Tyson, Kareem Jackson moving back to safety, things of that nature.
Now Johnson is smiling on the sideline, but he’s still not off IR. After Houston added D’Onta Foreman and Kayvon Webster back to the 53 man roster, it’s now certain that IR is where he’ll remain for the 2018 season.
Here are our thoughts on Johnson’s past, what may happen after this season, and if he’s the worst draft pick during the O’Brien era.
What truly made Kevin Johnson a potential impact prospect was his elite short area burst. Unfortunately, all of the injuries sapped him of one of his two best skills, the other being his willingness to make tackles.
Ultimately, health is a skill an NFL player must have, and it’s one that Johnson didn’t have. With the knowledge at the time, he was the right pick. He just didn’t work out because of injuries.
I don’t have much of an opinion on Kevin Johnson. Essentially, he’s a guy in a hoodie on the sideline. He’s under contract for one more season at $9 million in 2019...that’s kind of a lot for a HUGE “maybe”. I’m not sure of the cap ramifications for cutting him, but if the Texans can keep him around until the final 2019 camp roster cutdown without it hurting the cap, I see no reason to drop him early. As long as their future plans at cornerback are not affected in ANY way by what Kevin Johnson was, I don’t see the harm in keeping him with the unlikely hope he’ll 1) get back to who he was for that brief time, 2) play smarter, and 3) stay healthy. I say that because I don’t think his injuries have been freak-accident random occurrences. I think if he played a bit smarter and with more self-awareness, some (not all) of those would have happened.
So sure, keep him around through camp and see where you are when it’s time for final roster cuts. The thing I want to emphasize MOST here, though, is that Kevin Johnson should not in any way, shape, or form move the needle in ANY direction when it comes to Houston’s offseason plans at cornerback, be it through the draft or free agency. Essentially, treat the situation as if he will not be here in 2019 - because if he is here, it means he looks like he is getting back to where he was. If he’s not, they’ll cut him regardless (taking into account again that I do not know the cap ramifications of my own scenario).
31 cornerbacks were drafted in the 2015 NFL Draft. Among those 31, only seven remain with the team that drafted them. Even though Kevin Johnson’s Houston career was disappointing, he still fared far better than most of the guys in his class.
There was no question the Texans needed a cornerback in 2015, so the selection of Kevin Johnson made sense. In hindsight, the team probably should have picked Marcus Peters, who went to Kansas City two picks later, or Byron Jones, a four-year starter in the Cowboys’ secondary.
Is Johnson the worst high pick in the B’OB era? Yes. All the other high picks have flourished and remain starters. Kevin Johnson has not met that bar.
Has he been bitten one too many times by the injury bug? Yes. It certainly stunted his development and potential.
It was just a bad storm at a bad time for the Texans and KJ. He’s missed 26 of his potential 61 NFL games, which isn’t enough to maintain a spot on the roster. Maybe the Texans still have hope that he can have some fraction of what A.J. Bouye could produce in his contract year, but my guess is that Johnson won’t even make it to his contract year before the Texans decide to terminate the relationship.
I wrote about this last Thursday. This is a late parro—I mean cornerback. His talent is bleedin’ demised, gone up and joined the Choir Invisible. This is an ex-cornerback.
Is he the worst high pick of the BOB era? Yes, based solely on the expectations out of him and the potential he showed early on in his career. But I also think him being a bust isn’t entirely his fault. Injuries are fluky things and you can’t control getting injured or not. But while it’s not his fault he got hurt so often, like BFD said, sturdiness in a player is just as important as being able to cover receivers and having the smarts to play the position. He clearly doesn’t have that sturdiness and that’s a big problem for sticking around the league for a long time.
I agree with BFD in the fact that Kevin Johnson lost what made him great, the ability to break on the ball. He was phenomenal at playing three to five yards off the line, recognizing the route, and stampeding down on it. It was like watching Johnathan Joseph morph into a lightning bolt. He was never great at pressing or playing straight man to man; instead, he was better at tailing and breaking.
I’m guessing Johnson fell off because of injuries. Even after sitting out for the remainder the season multiple times, and coming back healthy in previous years, he’s been awful each season since his second one. It’s a sad thing. After his rookie season, I thought we were looking at a future All-Pro caliber player. That didn’t happen. Instead he became Brandon Harris. Celebrating and waving his arms around only to be whomped by a yellow flag for defensive holding or pass interference. He couldn’t tackle, and even when he did, he used his head too often instead of his shoulder, leading to concussions. By default, Johnson was the worst pick made during Bill O’Brien’s time in Houston, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. If you could play his career out in a different simulation than the one we reside in, 75 out of 100 times he’s at least a capable starter.
(I still think Xavier Su’a-Filo could have been good if he learned how to use his hands. He’s been better in Dallas than in Houston, like Jeff Allen, like Brandon Brooks, like Ben Jones, and like just about every offensive lineman who’s left or joined this team.)
So now Kevin Johnson resides on the sideline, where he we see him in flashes. Wearing a hoodie and smiling. Slapping helmets after interceptions. Wishing he was out there. Even if he ever does get back, he’ll never fulfill the potential he showed way back when, which will probably happen be in a different city after his fifth year option is waived to make that a reality.
I remember wondering about the pick when Kevin Johnson’s name was called out on draft day. I got excited, knowing how Houston seldom whiffs on a first rounder. Then as he got on the field, I found myself making the typical homer-excuses, “He’s still a rook, give him time to learn and develop,” etc. Those slowly gave way to “Come on, man!”, which then gave way to feeling Houston should have jettisoned him in some form or another this past offseason.
Now, instead of moving on from the KJ2 experiment and begrudgingly acknowledging there weren’t really any legit options to replace him by the time the writing on the wall showed through the fog, he’s drawing a paycheck while hanging out on the sidelines and chit-chatting with the other players. At this point, moving on from Johnson makes total sense. With a cornerback room in desperate need of a makeover, Johnson is currently the answer to a question Houston should stop asking.